Golf Course Review: Hidden Glen at Bentdale Farms

Hidden Glen is one of those courses that is really hard to play the first time. I came in to this round confident and playing really well (for me): My previous five rounds were 78, 81, 82, 85 and 83, and for the first time in my life I’m under a 9 handicap at 8.3. I’ve been thrilled and feeling almost unstoppable on the course. I’ve been hitting fairways and greens, and putting out of my mind.

All that came to a screeching halt at Hidden Glen Golf Club in Cedarburg.

I should add that I really enjoyed the course, and the conditions were nothing short of perfect. These lightning fast, multi-tiered greens beat me down, though – save for a one-putt birdie on ten, I never figured them out and three-putts were nothing if not regular.

Hidden Glen is a course where local knowledge is king, and there’s a lot out there to be had. While my golf game struggled mightily, I really enjoyed the course and think my next time on it will probably see me shaving ten strokes off the 95 I shot this time… Or more. Hopefully I’ll find out soon!

To the course…

The first hole requires a shot toward the right side of the fairway. A narrow, kidney bean shaped green resides on the long side of a pond that keeps the track’s opener from being your typical introductory handshake.

The second hole introduces the player to a few of the design elements they can expect throughout their round: Wide, forgiving fairways, concealed target lines and elevated, multi-tiered greens.

Anything right of the trap way on the left border of the second hole is fine off the tee – this par four comes down to what you do on the two-tiered green that rises from left to right.

The third at Hidden Glen is a classic Dye family risk/reward par four: Longer hitters are baited in to chopping off as much of the massive pond as they can to get closer to the green, while the smart player hits the high percentage shot down the left side fairway to leave a 150-yard approach shot.

From the combo tees we were playing, the green was a little over 300 yards of carry away, and the target areas for bigger drivers of the ball required carries between 225 and 280 yards.

With water left, long and right on the approach shot, being able to get the drive closer off the tee would certainly come in handy…

The fourth is a very nice island par three. Thin from side-to-side, the green is deep enough to allow for an extra club on the tee shot, which is important on a wide-open course where a 10 mph wind is considered a light breeze.


Hole 4: Par 3 (133/125/118/118/86)

A tough par five, the fifth tees up over water with a fairway that runs from right to left and again rewards the long [and accurate] driver with both a shorter distance in to the green as well as a chance to get there in two. Shorter hitters will likely need to lay back and play long shots down the fairway.

The sixth, while short in distance, is quite possibly the hardest par three on the course. The green here is long from front-to-back, opening up a great variety of possibilities for lengths, but is really, really narrow from right-to-left.

The left side of the green (with the front pin we had) is crowned and falls off to a collection zone that reminded me of other collection areas from my past:

So… Don’t go left on the sixth at Hidden Glen. Trust me.

The seventh is a long par four, playing around 480 yards from the combo tees. It’s a bit of a risk/reward hole (similar to a road hole), with small hills hiding the landing zone for players trying to bite off distance – sand traps protect much of that area, as well, adding difficulty to the approach shot if not carried.

The green on seven is receptive to long shots, running uphill from front to back.


Hole 7: Par 4 (490/460/443/420/372)

As mentioned earlier, Hidden Glen is a tremendously challenging golf course for the first-time player. While the first bunch of holes introduce beginners to well constructed, tumultuous green complexes, it’s on the eighth hole that PB Dye’s design starts peppering the course with a rather new-age defender of par that will really disorient newbies: Blind shots.

The tee shot is to a wide, easy-to-hit fairway. From there, things get a bit more complicated – we couldn’t see the green until about 20 yards out, in fact. Nick gave me a line near the two furthest right pine trees in the distance, which turned out to be pretty accurate.

Ten foot tall grass mounds shroud the green complex, which runs uphill right-to-left from a sharp dogleg in the fairway. The mounds also hide six small bunkers.

Uphill and long, the par four ninth plays over water from 443 yards from the second tees in. The green is long but narrow from right-to-left, and if the approach is errant will potentially leave another blind recovery shot over mounding.


Hole 9: Par 4 (463/443/414/388/341)

Elevated tees frame the tenth hole fairway nicely, which bends 90 degrees from left to right past the wasteland. Huge hitters can wail away here, but the farther right the tee shot is the more likely it is to find the massive tree or hazard in the bend.


Hole 10: Par 4 (363/340/322/297/271)

The eleventh really got me. I had a hard time figuring out the distance to the treeline, or the dogleg, and had no idea what would happen if I was a little left. From the tee, it looks like a sea of fescue. When driving past it in the cart, though, there is a lot of sandy wasteland and bunches of fescue that are nowhere near as penal as I’d expected.

I was never comfortable on the tee, and pushed driver hard right in to the woods.

The second shot is well uphill to a short, elevated two-tier green that is much higher on the right side than the left.


Hole 11: Par 4 (404/389/373/353/326)

Twelve is a tough par three, teeing up from 185 yards from the combo tees (237 from the tips and 210 from the first set in). There are no trees around, and considering it’s on a higher point of the golf course the tee shot will be heavily influenced by wind.


Hole 12: Par 3 (237/210/185/174/148)

The thirteenth has probably the widest fairway at Hidden Glen, and probably one of the widest I’ve ever seen. While there are no major concerns off the tee – swing for the fences! – there’s a lot going on green-side.

A pond creeps up to the front-left in the approach area, and the putting surface is canted severely from right-to-left, toward the water and a shallow, narrow sand trap that separates the green and pond.

I hit a great tee shot on this hole only to hit a marginal at best approach that left me on the top shelf (right side of the green). I was happy to make five.


Hole 13: Par 4 (480/424/411/394/374)

While the entire left side of the driving zone looks like a lost ball waiting to happen, the tee shot on fourteen should actually be fairly straight-forward. There are sand traps beyond all the fescue, but not as much tall grass as it appears from the tees. The right side is wide open.

A great tee shot on fourteen will allow for a long approach to a green that is fairly level and open. While it’s accessible, it is also incredibly sloped and long from front to back (another multi-tiered green complex).

With a front-left pin location, we could see the flag from the tee box on fifteen. This would be the only time we’d see it until walking up to scout our approach shots. The fairway runs about 280 yards before dropping off a cliff that leads to a blind, lowered green.

Water on the left side borders this recessed green, so pick a tree in the distance to aim at before hitting a wedge in but make sure to err toward the right.


Hole 15: Par 4 (353/327/315/300/263)

The tee shot on sixteen should split the two trees nearest the right side of the fairway in the distance. A large bunker protects the left side leading up to its right-to-left dogleg, and the green is slightly elevated and tough to hit due to its massive false front.


Hole 16: Par 4 (396/374/354/311/260)

Playing over water, the seventeenth cuts the northwest corner of a pond to a small green protected on the left by a serpentine trap and on the right by two small pot bunkers.

As is the case with all par threes at Hidden Glen, wind will inevitably play a major factor in strategy on the seventeenth.

Playing over 500 yards from all three of the longest tee boxes, a tee shot over water and then playing way uphill to a crazy small and significantly contoured green with a huge false front makes the eighteenth at Hidden Glen one of the most challenging finishing holes I’ve seen in a while!


Hole 18: Par 5 (559/532/509/478/422)

I hit a ridiculously good tee shot on eighteen, leaving myself 210-220 in uphill. I hadn’t hit a fairway wood all day, but figured this was a good opportunity as Nick had already closed me out in our match play and this would not be a relevant score as my number of shots was starting to add up exponentially.

I missed a little short and left, leaving myself a downhill, side-hill flop that I skulled almost to the practice green. A typical view of the recovery shot if short on eighteen – completely hidden is the false front and right-side collection area:


One of the things I liked best about Hidden Glen is that the course truly requires players to hit all kinds of shots and clubs. There is terrific variety to the par threes and the conditions are absolutely immaculate – these were probably the fastest greens and fairways I’ve played this year.

The clubhouse is very nice, and the men’s locker room provides a first-class experience including its own bar. Their freshly fried potato chips were delicious and, as I’ve come to expect at private clubs in Wisconsin, they pour a good drink.

Because everybody asks me “What would you compare it to?” I spent some time thinking about it. I think Hidden Glen is for sure its own course, but at the same time if I had to compare it to one course it would be Hawk’s Landing in Verona, Wisconsin. The others that come to mind, to some degree, are Meadow Valleys at Blackwolf Run, Strawberry Creek and to some degree the Irish course at Whistling Straits. These are all regular tournament/championship courses, are rather wide and forgiving off the tees and are all meticulously kept.

Similarly to my own home club (North Hills Country Club), Hidden Glen is all about the golf experience. There are no pools or tennis courts, which I’ve come to realize are actually good selling points for avid golfers who’d prefer not to worry about additional costs and liability.

Just sixteen years in the making, Hidden Glen is one of the newest private golf clubs in the state, and I have to say they appear to be healthy and growing: Their membership is young and involved, and their course is beautiful, challenging and one that I’d love to get back to for a second glance with a little more local knowledge.


Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Cedarburg, WI
Yardage: Tournament-7017, Championship-6621, Member-6255, Intermediate-5914, Forward-5278
Slope/Rating: Tournament-140/74.3, Championship-136/72.5, Member-132/70.9, Intermediate-130/69.3, Forward-127/70.8
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: Private (~ $100 guest fee)

Hidden Glen Golf Club Website

Golf Course Review: West Bend Country Club

I’ve been wanting to play the course at West Bend Country Club for a lot of years, and finally got my opportunity this past weekend with a couple of buddies from North Hills.

What always intrigued me about West Bend is its bloodlines – designed by William Langford in 1928, I had always heard that it is a slightly less links-style course with all of the great green complexes of Lawsonia, but with better elevation.

Boy they were right. The elevation at West Bend Country Club is staggering. While the club’s website reads that the back nine was designed to allow for an easier walk for average golfers, neither nine looks to be a leisurely stroll.

With beautiful rolling fairways and dramatically elevated greens, the course is photogenic to say the least. It is for this reason that I am including as many or more pictures of it on this post as I have for probably any course!

The front and back nines’ tee boxes are situated next to one another, just behind the beautiful, recently renovated clubhouse at West Bend Country Club. I loved this statue between them:

“Partners” statue between the 1st and 10th hole tee boxes at West Bend Country Club

The practice putting green tells you as much as you’ll need to know about the greens at West Bend: They are really quick and have a ton of break in them.

One of the most striking greens on the entire course comes really early on the first hole. The fairway is wide and forgiving, with very little to worry about in the way of hazards other than the tree lines that border a whole lot of rough. The second shot is where this hole gets interesting, though, as the ascent up the fairway gives only a glimpse of this perched green. Be short and fall off the false front. Go long and find yourself eight feet below the back of the green with the putting surface running hard toward the front.

Continue reading

Golf Course Review: The Club at Strawberry Creek

Host of the 2012 Wisconsin State Amateur tournament, The Club at Strawberry Creek has quickly become one of Wisconsin’s premier private golf clubs.

Co-owned by former Chicago Bears lineman, Jay Hilgenberg, and developer Barry Shiffman, The Club at Strawberry Creek is a comfortable distance from the Illinois border, and the Illini presence is certainly felt onsite. During our visit, for example, there were cars next to mine that had bumper stickers for the Blackhawks, White Sox and Bears.

This proximity, about seven miles from the Wisconsin/Illinois border, should certainly help with membership in being able to draw from both northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin.

Rick Jacobson’s award-winning course opened in 2006, was available for public play until 2010, and has been fully private ever since.

Over the past four years, I had tried calling and emailing Strawberry Creek a number of times to check it out, and was told each time that non-members are not allowed without being invited by a member. Fortunately for me, my good friend Mandy’s dad happens to be a member and her husband/my friend, Jim, got him to invite me for a round this past June. To say I was excited to finally play Strawberry Creek would be a huge understatement!

Strawberry Creek’s beautiful physical property, including two swimming pools and a 38,000 square foot clubhouse with numerous amenities (fitness center, tennis, basketball, spa, dining, awesome locker rooms, etc.) is the newest and one of the most upscale in Wisconsin.

Located 30 miles south of Milwaukee, Strawberry Creek’s reputation built slowly at first, but the buzz over this gem picked up quickly when it was chosen to host the 2012 Wisconsin State Amateur, probably each season’s premier non-PGA event.

A new-age links-style layout, Strawberry Creek was originally part of the next door Thompson’s Strawberry Farm, and features its native grasses, streams and hills. The result is a gorgeous and playable course that features a terrific variety of par threes, fours and fives.

At 7,113 yards from the tips, it is ideally designed for tournament action, but also plays comfortably from the gold and blue tees for non-scratch golfers.

The first of their par fours is a longer one, at 411 yards from the gold tees. The fairway is narrow but runs hard, and the best drive here is to the right side of the fairway to set up an easier approach to a two-tiered green.

Hole 1: Par 4 (446/411/377/343/319)

The shortest par five on the course, the second hole is a great birdie opportunity. The fairway bends to the right, with sand traps littering that side of the driving area.
The flight zone in, if going for two, requires a lot of carry to especially keep out of the traps on the left side.

Hole 2: Par 5 (518/492/466/445/429)
Hole 2: Par 5 (518/492/466/445/429)

A mid-range par four at 375 yards from the gold tees, the third hole features an intimidating tee shot with sand traps to both the left and right sides of the driving zone. The green is highly elevated, requiring an extra club or all flight to reach it.

Hole 3: Par 4 (405/375/341/309/278)

For a par three, the fourth hole does not look overly wicked from the tees, but this is one of the most extreme greens I have seen in a while. The right side drops off severely, and sharp ridges on the putting surface keep this from being your run-of-the-mill 131-yard par three.

Hole 4: Par 3 (147/131/115/100/90)

With tall berms left of the fairway, the tendency on five would be to favor the right side of the fairway, toward the hidden fairway bunkers on that shoulder. The fairway leans gently left on this long, 436-yard par four, setting up a long approach to a green that is protected on the right by a deep green-side bunker.

Hole 5: Par 4 (467/436/404/371/321)

The sixth is a fun, drivable par four with a false front and several traps to keep drives from running on. The left side of the fairway is heavily sanded, and a central fairway bunker requires the tee shot to carry a significant distance.

Hole 6: Par 4 (299/277/252/232/218)

A large pond guards the left side of the fairway on seven, which runs downhill and left off the tee. At 513 yards from the gold tees, this is not an overly long par five, but the green complex is small and tricky, with a deep chasm front-left and a heavy slope running from the front-left to the back-right.

Hole 7: Par 5 (546/513/476/441/409)

From elevated tees, the par three eighth is an intimidating one-shotter with water left and beyond the flight zone. The green is large and receptive, but risen to make hitting the green on the fly a necessity.
Hole 8: Par 3 (189/176/155/131/111)

My favorite of the par fours at Strawberry Creek, the ninth is a great strategic hole to end the front nine. The driving area is wide, and the right side of the fairway is definitely preferable to set up an approach that will not directly take on the trees that separate the initial fairway from the approach one.
With a heavily elevated green complex, this is another hole that requires a high approach to hold the green – anything short will likely stay short given its false front.

Hole 9: Par 4 (468/428/398/367/318)
Hole 9: Par 4 (468/428/398/367/318)

Hole 9: Par 4 (468/428/398/367/318)

The back nine at The Club at Strawberry Creek is a very fun nine holes! Beginning with a long par four at 443 yards from the golds, a pond defends the left side of the fairway from just in front of the tees to just in front of the green. The sand trap on the right side of the fairway is about 280 yards from the gold tees, so the water is really the hazard to avoid most.
The fairway runs hard toward the green, which approaches can be run on to.

Hole 10: Par 4 (466/443/407/348/325)

With a creek running laterally through the middle of the fairway on eleven, the second shot is probably the most important one on this par five. The right side is mounded, and the ideal tee shot will hug that side of the fairway.
Water is found right of the green, and a tricky little green-side bunker is found just short of the putting complex. Like with many holes at Strawberry Creek, runoff areas are found all around this green (as seen in the third picture, below):

Hole 11: Par 5 (545/514/473/436/386)
Hole 11: Par 5 (545/514/473/436/386)
Hole 11: Par 5 (545/514/473/436/386)

Twelve is an awesome par three, with an elevated green fronted by traps and a massive false front that falls off right and toward the central pond.

Hole 12: Par 3 (221/207/191/175/160)
A 410-yard par four, the tee shot on thirteen drives over water and climbs slightly uphill and hard to the right.
Hole 13: Par 4 (426/410/384/351/312)

Fourteen is a truly spectacular par five, with a heavily sloped fairway that will propel tee shots either bounding forward, or falling off sharply to the right.
Heading green-ward, tall grasses and a marshland encroach on the right side of the fairway, and the green is  protected to the right by sand.
All in all, this is my favorite hole on the entire course.

Hole 14: Par 5 (544/518/481/449/422)

Hole 14: Par 5 (544/518/481/449/422)

A deceptively difficult par three, fifteen plays longer than its distance implies. With tee boxes that line up from sideways to the fairway and green complex, the front-right of the green falls off to a collection area, while the front-left is protected by a green-side bunker.

Hole 15: Par 3 (229/207/203/198/108)

Hole 15: Par 3 (229/207/203/198/108)

Sixteen requires two careful shots, as the driving area is blind and runs downhill and to the right toward a large pond. The pond then runs the length of the right side of the fairway to the green, making the left side of the green the best target.

Hole 16: Par 4 (422/399/365/331/306)
Hole 16: Par 4 (422/399/365/331/306)

The second of Strawberry Creek’s drivable par fours, seventeen is a really well designed short hole. The responsible play is, of course, to lay up before the sand traps and hit a controlled wedge in, but what fun is that? A central pot bunker guards the front of the green, and the putting surface slopes heavily from the back to the front.
As a side note, I loved the outfield-like mowing patterns on this hole, nine and fourteen.

Hole 17: Par 4 (315/290/265/246/231)

At 431 yards from the gold tee box, eighteen is a very challenging par four to finish the back nine. With the elegant clubhouse providing a backdrop to the hole, the right side of the fairway will provide the most open and shortest approach, which is destined to be long on this brute of a finishing hole.
A large waste bunker resides along the right side of the green, which is heavily sloped and has runoff areas both left and long.

Hole 18: Par 4 (460/431/404/375/355)

The Club at Strawberry Creek has an absolutely first-rate golf course with premium conditions: The greens are fast and true, and the fairways and squared-off tee boxes are meticulously cared for. Strawberry Creek’s reputation for providing one of the finest private club golf experiences in Wisconsin is well deserved.

Course Wrap-Up:
Location; Kenosha, WI
Yardage: Black-7113, Gold-6658, Blue-6157, White-5648, Green-5098
Slope/Rating: Black-136/74.8, Gold-131/72.8, Blue-126/70.5, White-122/68.2, Green-121/70.1
Par: 72
Weekend Rates: N/A (private club)